Release of body-camera video of the shooting death of Joshua Feast, 22, killed by a La Marque Police officer Dec. 9, answered some questions about the events leading up to the shooting, but left open the core question in the minds of many, including residents who’ve held protests since the shooting.
While offering some praise to city officials releasing the video after calls for transparency, protesters Monday questioned whether Feast had been a threat when shot by Officer Jose Santos, and argued the body-camera video is less than definitive on that count.
Early in the investigation, Sheriff Henry Trochesset said the video showed Feast pointing a gun at Santos. Trochesset’s office is investigating the shooting.
Although the video shows Feast leaping from the passenger side of a parked car with a gun in his left hand, the grainy, wobbly image is less clear about whether he pointed it directly at Santos before he turned to flee.
The video shows that for a fraction of a second, an armed Feast and Santos faced each other a few feet apart.
For protesters who gathered Monday at La Marque City Hall, the video was evidence of police wrongdoing.
“Who that has seen the video saw a gun pointed at an officer?” Isaac Fanuiel IV said. “That was a false narrative, and in 2020, we are not going to accept the same type of response.”
Speakers at the protest of several dozen repeated calls for the city to fire Santos, for Police Chief Kirk Jackson to resign and for more transparency.
“We thank La Marque for the transparency and releasing the body cam, but we are concerned and disappointed,” said Kimberley Yancy, president of the Dickinson/Bay Area Unit of the NAACP and an organizer of the protest.
Along with the video, city officials released a description of events from their perspective, asking residents to bear with them through the process.
“We know our community has questions,” Jackson said. “We are releasing information as soon as we are able while maintaining the integrity of the investigation and complying with our legal obligations.
“We ask for continued patience as the investigation unfolds. Our condolences, thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of Joshua Feast.”
Aside from the description contained in the prepared statement, no city officials would have further comment, said Colleen Martin, spokeswoman for the city.
The police department had been investigating a series of shootings, including two recent drive-by shootings at a house on Pirtle Street, officials said.
Feast had been named a person of interest in those shootings and was sought on two outstanding felony warrants, including felon in possession of a firearm and evading arrest.
Santos had been dispatched that night to verify whether Feast was near a residence on Pirtle Street, officials said.
The video shows the inside of Santos’ patrol car as he approached the car in which Feast was sitting.
There’s no audio for the first 30 seconds of the recording because Axon body cameras initially only records video, city officials said.
But the lack of audio, combined with grainy video, leaves much of the brief encounter up to interpretation.
There’s no video record, for example, of what Santos said to Feast as he got out of his patrol car.
City officials have said Santos called out to Feast, who then quickly got out of the car.
Almost immediately after the shot, Feast dropped a stainless-steel automatic handgun and ran about 30 yards before collapsing in a nearby driveway, officials said.
City officials said Santos then maintained a position away from Feast and immediately called for medical personnel.
But protesters Monday criticized Santos for not attempting to render aid, and because Santos first called for backup before calling for medical help.
“I felt the same as when I first heard about it,” said Tyronica Coleman, a Galveston native. “No one deserves to get shot in the back. He never pointed a gun at the officer, he took off running.”
Fanuiel argued law enforcement had created a narrative against Feast before releasing all the information about the incident.
Fanuiel pointed to an article in The Daily News, titled “Video shows slain La Marque man pointed gun at officer, investigators say” as evidence that law enforcement was trying to build a narrative that isn’t clear, based on the video.
Wayne Hobgood, vice president of the African-American Historic Preservation Committee or 1867 Settlement in Texas City, on Monday announced plans to run for office in May, explaining that the time was now to do more than protest.
Yancy argued the video proved that reform was needed in the police department.
“This is the result of incompetence and piss-poor training,” she said. “Residents of La Marque are ready for a positive change in the city. We’re tired of the status quo.”
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Feast’s family, on Monday called for the Texas Attorney General and an independent U.S. Department of Justice investigation because of a lack of faith in local law enforcement, he said.
“This leads us to conclude that members of the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office — who are responsible for investigating the actions of this officer absent bias or predisposition — instead lied regarding the evidence revealed by the body-cam video in order to taint and twist the narrative in the press, offer a justification for Santos’ actions and untruthfully attack the character of the deceased, Joshua Feast,” Crump said.
While working for the Galveston Police Department, Santos was among several officers Reginald Davis sued in federal court claiming his face had been held in the surf during a beating at the hands of Galveston police officers.
That case eventually ended in dismissal, although it’s not clear based on federal court records whether that was because of a settlement or for lack of merit.
Crump called on the police department to terminate Santos’ employment.
Santos is on administrative leave while the investigation takes place, officials said.
Santos has been employed by the La Marque Police Department since October 2014 and has been a police officer since June 2010, officials said.
He had been placed on leave in 2017 after shooting and killing a man armed with a sword.
A Galveston County grand jury in June 2018 declined to take any action against Santos for the shooting death of Gregory Ray Ham, 62.
Ham, who had been accused of invading a woman’s home, had hit Santos in the head with a sword before Santos fired a single shot that struck Ham in the head, police said at the time.